Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Holidays

Good Morning. Well, it's that time of year again. The hustle and bustle, the cold, the snow and ice, the illness, the last minute stuff that we all have to do, so I'm taking my leave of you now.

I hope you all have a very merry holiday season and I'll see you sometime in January.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I am the Worst Mother in the World

Yes, yes I am. And I will tell you why. Last Monday was Monster's birthday. She turned nine. Now, I love my Monster with everything that I am, you know that. And I had every single best intention in the world to give my daughter a birthday party -- because -- she's only had one. Her first birthday. Due to reasons too numerous to mention, and sometimes beyond my control, I have never given my daughter a birthday party.

Anyway, as I was saying, I had every single best intention in the world to give Monster a "smallish" birthday party* this year. We were on Thanksgiving break from school, her birthday happened to fall on the Monday we returned to school. It was only going to be my parents, but they don't ever come to our house, so I thought I would have it at my house. (Since we moved down here, I have only hosted one Thanksgiving. My parents hold every holiday at their house. Including Monster's birthday parties.)

Thanksgiving week I worked on THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE. All week. 12 hours a day. Every day. If I wasn't writing, I was researching, or editing, or proofing, or something. I had an internal deadline and I hadn't worked on it all together in a long time. I neglected the house, the dogs, my parents, my daughter, the laundry. On Thanksgiving day, I took a break for four hours and celebrated the turkey. Then I went back to my computer. (Some people take the whole month to do NaNo. Thanksgiving week is my own personal hell.)

On Sunday I stopped writing and cleaned my house. It took all day. I then went to the market and picked up donuts for the class party the next morning and a cake mix so I could bake the cake.

Monday I had nothing to do at school except sell gift cards until 8:30, so I had all day to finish the laundry, set the dining room table, bake the cake, hang the Happy Birthday sign (from her first birthday party and a tradition), and wrap her presents that I had hidden in the kitchen cupboard.

Monday morning at school, selling gift cards, I realized there were two cards missing. $100- gift cards. I spent all day Monday at school looking for these cards. (Plus there were three other discrepancies in the "book" I had to figure out. It's just a matter of matching names to numbers to checks, but it's a lot of paperwork to go through.**)

Due to the gravity of the situation, (which it wasn't that grave, but needed to be investigated ASAP) I was on the computer as soon as I walked through the door, scrolling through family lists and gift card orders. It shouldn't be that hard to find the discrepancy. Needless to say, I didn't bake the cake or hang the sign.

Monster went down to my parents' house as soon as she got home to do her homework. At 6:30, I get a phone call from my mother that my father went to get Monster a cake and was I coming down? Where did 2 1/2 hours go? I grabbed the Happy Birthday sign and put it on the counter. The cat wanted to go out. I let her out and then came back in to grab my coat and keys. Then I went down to my parents.

We had the birthday blowing of candles and singing while my mother was on the phone with my sister-in-law. We opened presents while my mother was on the phone with my sister-in-law. We ate cake with whipped cream while my mother was on the phone with my sister-in-law. And then we left and my mother was still on the phone with my sister-in-law.

During the ten second drive from their house, Monster asked, "Why can't I have a birthday party at the roller skating rink like my friends did?" (There are five kids in her class who have birthdays in November so they all celebrate together. Last year they went to the trampoline park. Another year they had it at the little zoo in Greensboro. This year was a roller skating party. How am I supposed to compete with that?)

Stepping into the kitchen, I see the Happy Birthday sign on the counter. *face palm*

Monster went into the other room. "What's all this stuff from Target?"

I had forgotten I had taken the gifts out from their hiding place and put them on the ottoman to wrap. *face palm*

So I said, "Those are your birthday presents." I could hear the rustling of the bags. And then, "Can you help me, I can't get the knot out." I walked into the other room to hang up my coat. I said, "No, you have to work for them. This isn't like Puppa and Yo-yo's where you just tear the paper and crumple it up. Do you know how many trees gave their lives for all the paper you just ripped up? Well, we're not slaughtering trees in this house. You have to work for your presents." You should have seen the look she gave me.

Ah, but when she finally opened them...I am the BEST Mommy in the Whole World. Who knew two dolls and a t-shirt would bring that kind of smile?

Tell me -- What does it take for you to be the hero/heroine in your life story?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

* I have been thinking that I might have a little celebratory "tea and cakes" for Monster and a few of the mommies and their daughters over the holiday break. A refined and genteel afternoon.

** I didn't find the missing gift cards until Wednesday after Diane went through the books again. Guess whose fault it was they were missing? Mine. All that freaking drama for a three second mistake. Yes, I have since taken myself off the list of people who can sign out gift cards.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Alice's Restaurant

Good Morning. I hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving, a fruitful NanoWriMo (if you participated), and Happy Hanukkah. I feel like November has just flown by. But my head was stuck on school until we went on vacation and the whole of that, I was chained to the computer.

I spent the beginning of the month bogged down in research. Again. That's all I'll say about that. And then I got into this story and started pounding out word counts. day after day. It was great. I couldn't believe how fast I was going and then - BLAM - I got this idea for another story. (Don't you hate that?)

So I took 5 days to write that all out (it turned out to be a lot more than I expected) and got back into THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE. Changed the title too. Sad to say I didn't get around to anyone's blogs, I was writing like a maniac (or maybe I should say manic?)

And then -- dum dum dum -- I decided to put a pirate in my book. Yeah, because I played the what-if game, so I found me a pirate, argh, and stuck him in the story. Thankfully, I wasn't that far in and I could change what I needed to without getting all nuts.

I didn't get as far as I wanted to but I did manage to squeak out 28,573 words for the month. Almost 30k. Maybe next year. I also didn't hear Alice's Restaurant this year on the radio. But I did hear Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song, so that kind of made up for it.

Tell me -- Did you get a chance to write over the holiday? Did you travel? Did you NaNo -- how was it? Did you participate in Thanksgiving nonsense -- how was that?

PS ~ Today is Monster's Birthday. She's nine. Going on fifteen.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

What We Are -- A Gift Before I Go

Good Morning. I had a very interesting discussion with some friends at school the other day and I thought I would share it with you before I take off for the month. I'm going to hit the keyboard for my own version of NaNo. With my research finished, I need to concentrate on writing Richard's story. I kept telling myself I wanted to get his book done by Thanksgiving and just look at the time....

As you all know, the release of my book WHEN SUCH FRIENDS WERE MET was for the school. A fund raising event, so to speak. The book's characters were based on people at the school and family and friends of the two teachers who won the prize. One of the lesser characters was a woman named Mrs. Joyner -- who is the cafeteria lady at the school. Debbie had no idea I had put her in the book until it was published.

Anyway, she bought a copy and read the book. I hadn't spoken to her in awhile and last Friday I went down to the caf to find Melissa. Well, Debbie was there and hugged me and told me how fantastic the book was, how fabulous it was to be a part of it all, and what a wonderful writer I was.

I said thank you, of course, but brushed it off. I don't think of myself as anything other than a Jane Austen wanna-be. I'm not a New York bestselling author. I haven't gotten onto any lists in famous newspapers. I just write my books and am exceedingly grateful to the readers who buy them.

Debbie continued to heap on the praise -- telling me I'm so smart that I could write such a great book. How hard it must be to do all that research. How wonderful it is that I can take just simple words and turn them into such a creative endeavor.

Melissa then jumped into the conversation and said that she could never do anything like that. She loves to read (and has read all my books) but she couldn't write. "I think all you writers out there are gifts from God. You think up these stories and share them with the world. Without you guys, the world would be a very dull place. All we would have is television. So boring."

So, there you have it. We -- writers -- are gifts from God. Isn't that nice?

Tell me -- What's the best compliment you've ever gotten about your writing?

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. I'll see you when I get back.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Truth about Backstory

Good Morning. Now that things have settled down in my real world life (which they haven't, I'm just sparing you from the gory details of the melodrama that has plagued/is still plaguing me) I've gone back to working on THE CAPTAIN'S LADY. (Which is quite interesting as I went to label this post, I noticed I did not have anything about him so I guess I've never told you about him before. Hmmmm...)

Anyway, Captain Richard Gaines is my latest hero and Russell Crowe is my inspiration if you will. Richard was the Captain of a 74 gun Ship of the Line for the Royal Navy. After the Battle of Trafalgar, he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress and resigned his commission. I could go on and on about him but I won't. It's all backstory.

Here's the kicker. I have three chapters written. New chapters. I couldn't use anything from the first version of the book I wrote about 7 years ago. Way too much purple prose. Lots of naval gazing (pun intended) and far too much backstory. Far too much.

Now, one of the ladies at the school is a voracious reader and when she found out I was an author bought four of my books before I could say jack rabbit. Now because of that, I decided to send her all the others that she hadn't read. (The least I could do for such a fan. Money is nice, but it's not all about that for me.)

Once she finished all of them (in about a week -- I told you she was voracious) she begged me for something else. I told her I was working on Richard's story, but that it wouldn't be ready until around Thanksgiving (HA!) She told me to hurry up and write it.

Last Friday I decided to ask her if she would read the first three chapters for me. She said she'd be honored. (Make me blush.) And then she asked why. Why did I want her to read them? And I said, "To see if there's too much backstory up front. I need to know if the story is working, and if it compels you to move forward." And she said, "Backstory? What's that?"

So I explained to her what backstory was and she said, "Oh, that. I never knew what it was called. I just thought that's how writer's write. How they explain who the person is and why they do the things they do." Then she cocked her head and gave me a funny expression. "Why do you think there would be too much? Aren't we supposed to know what motivates the characters?"

Barring a long and boring conversation about the mechanics of writing, I just said, "Well, the writing rules imply that too much backstory in the beginning is no good for a book. It doesn't keep the reader interested."

And she said (are you ready for this) "Who gave you those rules? I read all the time, and I like to know who the character is and what he's going to do right from the get-go. If I get to chapter 10 and find some little thing that I should have known from the beginning, it throws me off. I like to know why the character is the way he is right from the start. That way I know if he's going to be able to handle what gets thrown at him in the middle and if he'll actually make it to the end."

Having read craft books for all these years, and listened to agents and editors, publishers and other writers alike, they all say the same thing -- Never start your novel with backstory, always seed it in. But here, in the school lobby in the middle of a Friday afternoon, I hear that a reader likes to know what's happened to the character right from the beginning. How hearing about the character's past leads her further into the story than finding out about it in the middle.

So what's a poor writer to do? Ignore the rules and info dump? Seed in the backstory? Yeah, I know, these questions can lead a writer to go absolutely nuts. Tear a novel apart seven ways to Sunday for one editor and then put it all back together for another. Keep us up at night, talk to ourselves in the grocery store, and have random conversations with strangers on a bus.

What I think, and what I've always done, is just to write the book the way I want to write it. I want to write what I want to read and if that means loading up page one with backstory, that's what I'm going to do. Those old writing rules don't apply that much anymore in this new publishing world. I'm self-published and don't have to listen to anyone but the readers. If they like my stories, then they're better judges of what I write than any agent or editor. If my books continue to sell then I guess I'm doing something right? Right?

(And yes, I do maintain most of the writing rules. At least I know them and when I break them, I know why.)

Tell me -- What's your position on backstory? Do you seed it in? Do you info dump at the beginning? Do you even care about the "writing rules" anymore?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Book Signing... With Pictures

Good Morning. Okay, the only thing I can say about the book signing is I'm glad it's over. And not because it wasn't great, but because I'm exhausted.

As you all know, this book has been with me since April. The weird thing is, I never thought of it as MY book. It's always been about the teachers and the school. More or less. So doing the book signing was more for them than it was about me. That being said, I naturally wanted it to go well. The more I sold the more would get donated back to the school.

the books
So, let's rewind to two Thursday's ago when I ordered the books and I wasn't sure if they would get in on time. Well, they did. Yay! Talk about stress. However, that only gave the teacher (who wasn't going to be at the Festival) one day to get them signed. Which she did. Yay! And as we have a school newsletter, the book was given a chance for pre-orders, which 13 people did. Yay! So all was well in my little world.

Because I've been wicked busy doing other things, I only "thought" about what I was going to wear for the singing. I had an outfit picked out, but hadn't tried it on. Until Friday afternoon at 4 o'clock. (I was supposed to be there at 4:30 to set up my table.) The outfit didn't fit. I opened my closet and then my bedroom exploded. Dress after skirt after top after sweater after slacks and finally just standing naked in front of my ironing board with my go-to jean skirt and black top. Grabbing my black boots, I was ready to begin make-up.

There's a reason I haven't worn make-up in almost 5 years. I wear glasses. Bi-focals to be specific. Can I tell you how many times I stabbed myself in the eyeball with the mascara wand? And then cried it all down my face, which meant get the picture.

homemade sign by yours truly
By the time I left the house, it was 5 o'clock and I had to fight rush hour traffic through the city. What was normally a 25 minute ride, took 45 minutes so needless to say, I was very late. After slugging the box of books up to the gym, (as well as another box of accoutremants) several people admonished me for being late. (Hey, nothing wrong with a "grand" entrance right?)

Now, as this was first ever book signing, I thought a lot about what I envisioned a book signing to be. A nice quiet evening with a small but interested group in attendance, perhaps a short reading, and then I would sign some books. Well, as this was part of the Fall Festival, there were screaming children having fun, a boom-box blasting dance songs, inflatable bounce houses, a master of ceremonies on a microphone, and just about 300 hundred people all talking at once. Needless to say, "quiet" did not enter into any part of the evening.

my Thanksgiving tablecloth
I set up my table with a nice fallish cloth, had a few pumpkins, my other books, my header picture in a nice frame, and the absent teacher's picture in a nice frame. I also made a sign. I thought it was nice. The other teacher whom I wrote the story about sat with me, and thankfully, (I might add) she pimped the book. No one knew who I was. (I'm still new to the school and even though I'm there all the time, people don't necessarily put faces to names. Also, because I used my pen name, people really had no clue. They thought I was Anne Gallagher, and not me. Which was truly funny. "OMG, You're Anne Gallagher!"

Mrs. Heaton in the frame
Anyway, we were given the table right in front of the double doors leading into the gym so we were the first table you saw. Frightening, but pretty nice of them if I do say so myself. (Remind me to thank Tracy, the Festival coordinator.) However, because at the Festival they do everything with "tickets" people thought you could buy the book with tickets. Uh, no. And because someone told me to have a nice dish of candy on the signing table, I had Hershey kisses and mini Reese's peanut butter cups. Every single kid who saw that candy thought they could have one. (Luckily, Dianne -- the teacher -- beat them off.)

Okay, so you might wonder how it all went. I can't tell you because I have nothing to base it on. So you be the judge. I ordered 50 books. I sold 13 through pre-order and another 13 at the book signing. I also gave away 7 copies (3 each to the teachers and 1 to a special friend - no not that kind of friend - alas I wish he was.) My friend Laura thinks it will be nothing to sell the rest of the books through the school office.

And here we are

So, I guess I did okay. I'd like to say I did really well, but I'm not sure. I had hoped to get rid of the whole 50 and then some, but I guess that was overly ambitious. (I thought as it was about the teachers and not something I wrote -- if that makes any sense -- it would sell 150 copies.)

I do know one thing however, I will never do another book signing at a venue other than a nice quiet bookstore.

Tell me -- Have you ever had a book signing? How did it go? Did you sell as many copies as you thought you might? Were your expectations of the signing itself better or worse than you imagined? Have you ever stabbed yourself with your mascara?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

My First Book Signing...Or Not

Good Morning. Well, for those of you who have been following the saga of the bully and me, let me just say, I have triumphed over adversity. The Parent Volunteer room is now officially, the "Gift Card Corner Office", I will be getting a brand new file cabinet with sturdy lock, have been allowed to implement the new "ledger" as well as single page reconciling sheet (no more 28 pages of useless paperwork every week) and I will now be filing any and all reports that need to come out of that office. (I have since learned that Tina* only filed the reports to help me out -- she knew I was inundated as the new coordinator. At least that was her story. Ahem.)

Anyway, this Friday is my first book signing for the school project I have been working on since last April. It's a cozy novella about two teachers in 1809. Well, technically the two teachers who won the prize I had in the auction "Be a Character in a Story".

Now I've known for about 6 weeks I'm going to be signing books this Friday night the 18th at the Fall Festival. I put the final final final touches on it about 3 weeks ago. I formatted it for paperback and have had my proof since then. I made the necessary changes and put it on sale last Sunday.

With all the aforementioned drama sucking the life out of me, I completely lost track of time. I thought I still had another week to order the books and get them shipped to me. I ordered them Thursday night.

So when I ordered my proof copy, as I ordered all my other proof copies, they get to me in about 4 days because the plant where they make them is in South Carolina. I didn't think any differently about ordering 50 books. I mean hey, they're made in South Carolina right? It's only a spit away as the crow flies.

When I hit the shipping and handling button, and my receipt came up on the screen, it said they would be shipped to me BEFORE October 24. I looked at the date and didn't really think about it because I knew I had another week before the Fall Festival. (The mind plays mysterious tricks on you when you least expect it.)

Uh, guess what, the Fall Festival is on the 18th. Which I knew. That's THIS Friday. Which somehow, I didn't know. Well, I did, but I didn't. You know. And BEFORE could mean on the 23rd, or the 19th. I think it's going to take a big fat miracle to get them to me BEFORE the 18th. ( Like on the 16th so the teacher who is also supposed to sign them can actually sign them before she leaves for her son's engagement party on the morning of the 18th.)

And you may wonder why I didn't just click "expedited shipping". Well because 50 books is $23 standard. Then $45 for 5 days, then for two days $129.99. I don't know about you, but my checkbook balance isn't all that. (And no the school isn't paying for any of this. And when I figured out my profit after all is said and done, it's 50 cents a book. Which is why I'm not doing this again next year for the auction.)

Needless to say, I have no idea whether or not I'll be having a book signing at the Fall Festival this Friday night. *face palm* *face palm* and just for good measure *head desk*

I told the school secretary what I did, and she said, "Don't worry about it." I told her what I could do is make copies of the cover (on nice card stock) and hand those out instead. Take names and payment and when the books come in, sign them and send them home with the kids. She thought that was a reasonable idea.

But man, *face palm* *head desk* how inept can a person be? Okay, how inept can I be that I didn't get the books like two weeks ago so even if they do come in before Friday, I won't be running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

And generally something like this really wouldn't bother me, but we've been talking it up at school and everyone is excited to read it. Total Fail.

Tell me -- Have you ever lost track of time -- which I'm sure you have -- but has it completely rendered you brain dead? And just in case the books do come in, what do I do? How do I sign them? With just my name? Some kind of simple salutation? What do you suggest? Happy Reading? Thanks for reading? Hope you like it? None of the above? What do I have on the table? Candy? (I have no swag. Again, brain dead.)

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Adult Bullies in the Real World

Good Morning. I wasn't going to post this, but after reading Anne R. Allen's blog post on Sunday about cyber bullies, I thought I would share my real life drama because bullying in any form needs to stop.

Remember a few weeks ago I told you I was the new Gift Card Coordinator at my daughter's school... I took the job because nobody else wanted to do it. It involves a lot of paperwork, a lot of hours you don't get paid for and a lot of paperwork. I went in blind, but took it stride. I got together with Tina*, the outgoing coordinator, and Karen, my new right-hand assistant, and we plowed through the process for two weeks. (Actually 4 days total, which in my opinion was NOT enough for me to know what the hay-zoo I was doing.) Tina, I guess, thought that was enough. She claims she left me alone so I would find my own way. (With an $80 thousand dollar budget, you'd think she'd make damn sure I knew what I was doing.) But she (I see now in hindsight) wanted me to fall flat on my face. (I also heard this from another parent.)

Anyway, Karen and I bungled through the first ordering week alone because Tina deliberately left out a step in the processing of the orders. When we hit the glitch and because we were alone, I asked Laura, (the Director of Advancement for the school) to lend me a quick hand. Not a big deal. She didn't mind, she had actually set up the computer program so she knew how it all worked.

The next day Tina called me LIVID I had asked Laura for help. She claimed that I was not allowed to ask for help from any of the paid staff, spouting Diocesan policy about rules and protocol for parent volunteers. Huh? I beg your pardon, but I'll ask for help from whomever I damn well please. Tina claimed I had to call HER and she would help me over the phone. I tried to explain to her that if I didn't know what the hell I was doing, I couldn't explain it to her over the phone, so what was the point. Laura was there, it took two minutes to find the problem and fix it and it was done. Tina was not happy.

We then had our first Executive Board meeting for the PTO, but we also had a vote for the By-Laws over email. I read the by-laws and asked for clarification on just one word in a sentence. Being a writer, the sentence made no sense so the one word I asked to be inserted would make it make sense. Tina, (the former gift card coordinator who is now the treasurer for the PTO) decided if I was going to ask for clarification, then she wanted to insert a few words of her own to that same sentence. However, I felt that those words were ambiguous and totally screwed up the meaning of the sentence so I wrote that they were ambiguous, Laura agreed and made a motion to scrub the vote because of the ambiguity and totally rewrite that section of by-laws. The motion passed. Tina was not happy.

 As Karen and I were now officially on our own, we came up with a new plan to sell the gift cards. We were going to grab some new volunteers and start selling in the mornings during morning drop off. Not a big deal. I asked the principal if we could sit in the lobby during that time and she said "sure, sounds like a great idea." So we did.

Tina asked me one day how it was going with morning sales.  I said, (because I was so proud of how it was going) "Fantastic! We're making so much money, I have to make several deposits a week." She told me I couldn't do that because it would mess up the paperwork. Huh? I'm going to sit on $3000.00 for a week? Sometimes more? I think not. First of all that's a lot of money just sitting around in a desk drawer. Second, why should I keep checks for a week when some people are anal and need to know where there money is at all times (like me). I pretty much blew Tina off and kept making my deposits whenever I damn well felt like it. And besides, if the books come out right, who cares about paperwork. Tina was not happy.

Well, then, I had a special order come in on a Friday. A lady ordered $2000.00 worth of gift cards for a certain specialty food store. I made the special order. Not a big deal. When Tina found out she had a cow. "If you do that for one person, you'll be expected to do it for everyone. You can't do that without the proper paperwork and purchase orders." Okay, how stupid does she think I am that I wouldn't make out a purchase order?

Having run my own business for a few decades, if someone asks me for a special order, my first thought is to keep the customer happy, but more importantly returning to my business. Right? Simple customer service. I'm running this gift card thing like a business. If people are going to drop two grand on gift cards, you bet I'm going to make a special order. So I did. And then, lo and behold, it happened again. So I did it again. Tina was not happy.

Laura then told me quarterly reports were coming up and I had to do them. She gave me the template and said, "Just fill in the numbers." Easy peasy. Not a big deal. So I ran up the paperwork, filled in the numbers, and sent it off to Tina. Well. She decided she needed more reports and asked me for the passwords to the gift card program in the computer. (Laura had told me previously to change them.)

I gave them to her. Laura was a little upset, and told me to change them again. Tina was furious. However, as I began to think about what was going on, I realized, Tina had not asked to get into any one else's computer programs for their numbers, so why was she doing it to me? I told her no. She flipped out. I flipped back. However, I gave them to her just to shut her up because I was So.Sick.Of.The.Drama. I just want to do my job, do it well, make money, come home and write my stories. Tina was starting to suck the life out of me. Not to mention giving me a fine fat headache indeed.

I thought the situation was finally taken care of. Laura, the principal, the director of finance, the pastor, and the president of the PTO had agreed that from now on, I would be in charge of the reports, it would be written into the PTO bylaws, and that I would now be responsible or all quarterly reports. Tina was not happy.

But then, the finance director asked me for the bank statements. She needed copies. One of the other girls who volunteers for us, Diane, decided to help me clean the gift card office and purge some of the useless paperwork that had been hanging around for so many years. She had put all the old bank statements and deposit slips in manila envelopes and marked them by school year. It was totally great to get the file cabinet cleaned up. Yay. However, Tina was not happy, claiming we were purging important documents. (Sales sheets from 2003, 2006, 2009? I think not. They're a fire hazard.)

So when the finance director asked me for the bank statements, I knew exactly where they were. Right by the lock box in the bottom of the file cabinet because that's where I wanted them. Only when I went to look for them, they weren't there. I checked, I looked, I searched. No where. I informed the principal, the director of finance, and the secretary of the school. I was frantic. These were important documents and were needed, not only for me, but for the program itself. We get audited every two years by the Diocese, so if I'm missing bank statements, I'm screwed.

Now, during this frantic search, I had told the principal so she knew what was going on. Tina happened to be at school during this time (we had church service and our kids were doing the mass.) The principal asked if Tina knew where the missing bank statements were. Tina said no. Let me repeat, Tina denied knowing where they were in front of the school secretary and two other witnesses.

Well, I finally found them, in the 2011-2012 school year stuck in between March and September. However, they were also with reconciling sheets that I had no idea where those had come from. I could only speculate they were done by Tina and when she returned them to the gift card office decided to put them where I couldn't find them. I guess she assumed I wasn't going to notice they were missing until it was too late. (However, how stupid was she to leave evidence that she had moved them?)

 Suffice it to say, I was not happy. This was now the umpteenth time Tina had tried to get my goat. Her jealousy over my success with the program had turned her into a hideous monster. I had had conversations with Laura, the pastor, the principal, the finance director, the President of the PTO about Tina's bullying behavior SEVERAL times. However, they were all stymied as to how to handle the situation. Nothing like this had ever happened before. I mean really...there were rules to deal with bullies in the lower grades, but with adults?

However, I guess Tina thought that by bullying me, I would quit and that she would run to the rescue to save the Gift Card Program. Be the hero. You know. Guess what. She doesn't realize I'm not a quitter. She also doesn't realize that I'm not stupid and I know all about filing a formal complaint which is exactly what I did -- to the school board. I also inferred in my letter that if her behavior continues, I will send a copy of the letter along with all the other complaints I have against her to the PTO board and ask that she be removed as treasurer.

I had a conversation with the President of the PTO and showed her the missing bank statements and the questionable reconciling sheets. SHE was livid this time. I was informed there's going to be a big meeting this Weds with Tina to see what she has to say about the bank statements. I wonder how she'll squirm out of it.

In my formal complaint, I respectfully requested to either be given a new office with my own key, or have Tina banned from that room, the computer, and from my personal space within 20 feet. What else was I going to do? We're all sick and tired of the game she's playing. For whatever reason, she's out to get me. And no, I'm not being paranoid, it's just been me she's picking on. Nobody else. I guess she figured I'll do what she wants. I'll play by her "rules" and take it like all the other people she's bullied in the past. Guess what...I don't play that way.

When I spoke with the pastor, let me tell you, HE is NOT happy. When I told him about her demanding the passwords to the computer I was so upset I used my fancy Italian curse words. He lived in Italy for 8 years so he knew what I said. (I generally don't swear in front of clergy. You can go to hell for stuff like that. lol) He forgave me because he knew how upset I was as this was just another in her long line of ridiculous demands. He knows she's out to get me, because I'm proving I'm better at the position than she was. She's just insanely jealous. And it's too bad, because at one time I thought of her as a friend.

So let this be a lesson for you all -- don't let the bullies get you down. Fight back, but take the high road and do it in writing. Make a formal complaint. If you know you're in the right, the truth will win out. Don't take bullying in any form. Also, evidence helps. Pictures, documents, whatever you have, keep a record of the bullying, and formalize it. Get witnesses, statements. Someone WILL listen to you. They have to.

And if you're thinking of volunteering for the PTO, don't do it. I really wish I hadn't.

Tell me -- Have you ever been in a bullying situation as an adult? What did you do about it? Fight back, quit, use the rules to your advantage?

 * All names have been changed in this blog post.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Story of the Copperhead Snake

Good Morning. Some of you may have already seen this, if so, forgive the repeat. I've been flat out nuts since last Friday and I forgot to write up a post for this morning. I'll try to do better next week.

The Story of the Copperhead Snake

Once upon a time, in the land of Carolina North, there lived a writer who ripped up the rug in her kitchen. Eww, you must be thinking, a rug in the kitchen. Yes, a rug in the kitchen, which is why the writer ripped it up.

It was a large rug, so the writer, who was handy with an electric carving knife, cut the rug into manageable portions, rolled these portions up, tied them with an old clothesline and laid them in a small pyramid out in the carport to take to the dump at a later date.

As the writer knew deep down she would probably never go to the dump, she decided to place the rolled up portions of rug into the trash can. There were six portions in all, three small and three large. The writer took the smallest three and placed these portions down the street in her parent's trash cans, because, although not being the brightest bulb when it comes to math, she does have decent knowledge of what will fit into a trash can.

With that, she lifted one of the larger portions of rug to heave it into her own trash can and to her surprise, a snake lay in between the two remaining portions of rug. The snake was lovely, brown and yellowish green, small, and wrapped around in a lovely coil. He lifted his head slightly, as if to acknowledge the writer's presence and wondering for a moment why she had taken his warmth away, but then placed his head back onto his lap and returned to sleep.

The writer wondered what kind of snake it was, although did not give it a second thought that it could ever be something potentially dangerous, and so placed a box over the snake and then a large rock on top of the box.  Knowing the woman across the street liked snakes, the writer called her. However, the woman would not be available to look at the creature until later on that day.

And so, the writer continued cleaning the rest of the carport, cleaning the house, going about her regular Saturday cleaning business; laundry, kitchen, bathrooms. (If you thought this writer had a cleaning staff, I'm afraid you have the wrong writer.)

Early evening brought the woman across the street to the carport. And she was excited because all day long she had dreamed this small snake would be a replacement for a corn snake she had lost after 27 years. The woman eagerly lifted the box, and then quickly placed it back over the snake.

The writer asked, "What is wrong? Do you not like the snake?"
The woman said, "It is not a corn snake, my dear. It is a copperhead. And they are exceedingly dangerous."

The writer, who had grown up on the shores of Rhode Island, who had only ever seen a garter snake in real life, who at least had had the forethought to cover it with a box, said to the woman, "Well, what shall we do with it?"

The woman suggested they call -- the police, the fire department, animal control, the science museum, the hospital, the pest control business -- and all refused to deal with the poor little snake. When one last call prompted the response, "Oh, you must destroy it," this made both the writer and the woman very sad. It was a lovely little snake and not bothering anyone, and why was death the only option?

Surely, God had created the snake for a reason, although perhaps did not mean for it to be in the carport of a writer in Carolina North, near a small child, a little cat named Henry, and three very stupid dogs. Was there a way to transport the snake to a better place, where he would not upset so very many people, where he would be safe and not so dangerous?

Well, yes there was, however, the woman and the writer remained stymied as to how to pick up the snake in the first place without getting injured. He was a copperhead after all. Unfortunately, what they needed, was a man. A man who would not be afraid to deal with a little snake under a box. Okay, a poisonous little snake under a box.

Surprisingly, the man down the street had a son, a very lovely young man who was not afraid of anything, and after much deliberation, killed the little snake with one quick chop of an ax. The woman and the writer each said a prayer releasing the little snake's soul up to the Lord and asking for forgiveness in killing it.

Let this be a lesson for you all -- Be careful what you leave outside in the carport in the fall.

Did I happen to mention this writer also has a cord of wood stacked on the other side of the carport, and that copperhead snakes like to curl up into wooden stacks to hibernate?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Self-Gratification -- Instant or Prolonged

Good morning. I had an incident with a piece of brown bread the other day and it got me thinking. I know, first of all you're probably wondering, what in the hay-zoo is brown bread?

When I was a kid, every Saturday night we would have beans. Beans and hot dogs. Or beans and hamburgers. Or beans and pork chops. I don't really know what it was with beans, but there they were. When I was really little, my mother would make them from scratch in her big bean crock. They would cook all day in the oven and when she took them out, man, I can still smell them.

And then she would open the can of brown bread. I suppose it's called molasses bread in some places, I'm not really sure. I do know it's thick, and sweet, and sometimes has raisins in it. I also know it's steamed and not baked. It's not "traditional" bread, and I don't really know how to describe it. But it was always there on the table on Saturday night.

Having moved down South, I've had to give up a lot of food I took for granted when I lived in the North East. Fresh quahogs, fried clams with bellies, plums without pesticides, coffee milk, johnny-cakes, Twins Pizza, spinach pie, dough-boys --  the list is endless -- and brown bread.

Anyway, my mother found a can of brown bread at the local supermarket one day. She called me right away, nearly giddy with joy. "You'll never guess what I just found at Lowes Foods." When she told me brown bread I nearly cried. She was of course, making beans and hamburg for supper, and wanted me to come for dinner. I didn't feel good and I didn't want to take the chance I would give whatever malady I had to my father (his immune system is compromised) so I begged off. However, I told her to save me a piece of brown bread.

She sent me a chunk later that night. Probably around three slices if I cut it just so. However, what I did was leave it on the counter. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Finally, Tuesday night I cut off a slice and smeared butter on it and inhaled it in one bite. I left the rest for another day.

It has now been 10 days and the second piece of brown bread is still on the counter. It's not that I don't want to eat it. It's not that I didn't even go to the store and buy my own can and can have brown bread whenever I want. It's not that I'm afraid of the zillion calories I would consume if I ate it.

I've found the reason for prolonging my self-gratification is I'm afraid. I'm afraid if I eat that last piece, I'll never have it again. Even though I have my own can in the pantry. How twisted is that?

I did it with books the other night as well. I finally put the Kindle reading app on Monster's lap top so I could finally read books in bed. (I still don't have a real Kindle -- go figure. Santa can you hear me?)

So after I put the Kindle app on the lap top, I trolled through the stacks of books on Amazon. I hit several categories. I found so many books I have wanted to read for the last however long, but I didn't buy any. I've been saving money so I could buy them. I have lots of money so I could have bought as many as I wanted, but I didn't.

You know why, I wanted "real" books. Paperbacks. Okay, so maybe my "lots of money" was only $20 bucks and e-books are wicked cheap and I could have bought at least 15 books. But somehow, reading in bed constitutes turning pages, bad light, and twisted pillows. The thought of reading off a computer screen in bed totally turned me off. What gives?

I didn't buy e-books because I wanted paperback and I only had enough money for one or two, so in turn, I didn't buy any. I couldn't make up my mind which "One" to buy so I put it off.

Do you do this? Do you prolong your self-gratification for whatever reason? Or do you just "go for it"? Have you ever had brown bread?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Smashwords Interview

Good morning. For those of you who publish with Smashwords, you're probably already aware of the new changes to benefit their authors. Mark Coker is doing an amazing job for indies and I'm so glad I decided to stop playing with KDP Select and jump over to Smashwords and diversify. 

One of the latest tools Mark has given us is the ability to do an interview. Now me, I'm a talker. Ask me about my books and I'll go on and on. However, nobody has asked me lately, so I played around with this on Saturday morning, and this is the author interview I gave myself. 

Interview with Anne Gallagher

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in a little ocean side town in Rhode Island. My teenage summers were spent working at the local ice cream parlour and getting a tan (before that became bad for you). We didn't have a television (by choice) and the only thing to do was read. I cut my teeth on historical romance, bodice rippers and Highlander stories, and Fabio graced every cover. I loved losing myself in different places, not to mention different eras. Somehow though, I found the Regency period and I've never looked back.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I ever wrote was about a 70's rock band. I must have been seventeen. I still have it. Found it in a box of old papers when we moved. It totally stinks, is riddled with bad dialogue, and a horrible plot, but it means something to me because way back then, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a writer.

What is your writing process?

My writing process starts off in the wee hours of the morning. I like to get up at five, take a quick peek at emails and other social media before I start writing. Usually by my second cup of tea, I open my document and review/edit what I wrote the previous day. I write by the hour. If I can get to work by six, I'll stop writing around eleven and check my word count. Some days I can get in 1500-2000 words, others it's only 500 because I've stopped to do research.

During the school year, things are a little different. I still get up at five and check my social media, but then I take my daughter to school. I generally start to work writing by 8:30 and work until 1. Sometimes, if I'm particularly enamored of my story, I'll turn the computer back on after supper.

What do you read for pleasure?

Funnily enough, not Regency romance. Before I started writing, I must have read every Regency ever written. These days I'm finding myself drawn to women's fiction, cozy mysteries, and autobiographies.

Describe your desk-

In two simple words - a disaster. I have papers, books, research tomes, pens, pads, post-its, pictures, and two horseshoes on top of it right now. However, I'm in the middle of a writing my next book, so that's the way it will stay until it is finished. When that gets published, I will clean the desk and straighten out my office. Once I decide on my next project, it becomes messy again until I finish that. It's a vicious circle.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I had written my first three Regency novels and sent out queries to agents. They all said they liked my writing, but the market was saturated so they couldn't place me. A good friend of mine had chronicled her foray into self-publishing on her blog, and I thought, "if she could do it, so could I". It was a decided learning curve, but I'm so glad I did it.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

Smashwords has given me markets that I don't think I would have gotten into. Their reach is global, with varied companies, which means varied devices to utilize. Sure there are other companies who are global, but they only have one or two e-reading devices. And not everyone owns one. With Smashwords, the opportunity to be read by millions of people all over the world is just awesome.

What do your fans mean to you?

My fans mean the world to me. I think with every writer, the first letter or review you get that says, "I loved your book" gives you the feeling that you've finally found your place in the world. And that in turn, spurs us to continue. Sure, I've had my share of bad reviews, but the good far outweigh them. And the first thing we have to learn is that not everyone is going to love everything we write. However, for those readers who continue to read what I write is like Manna from Heaven. It sustains me.

What are you working on next?

I'm trying to finish up the last four books in my series The Reluctant Grooms. I'm currently working on Richard's story (hoping I'll have enough of a word count to make a novel), and that's slated for release around Thanksgiving. I hope. Then by Christmas I'm hoping to get two novellas out (both are prequels to the last book) and then next spring, the final book in the series should be ready for publication. I tend to work on two or three books at a time, and the two novellas have already been started.

So that's it. I know it's not the best interview, but I'm not a writer for Rolling Stone.

Tell me -- Are you published on Smashwords? Have you seen any of their new changes? Have you done an author interview with yourself?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Took a Job Part Two -- A Ray of Hope

Good morning. Yes, I know, last week I was whining about my stupidness in taking over the Gift Card Coordinator position at my daughter's school. This week, I'm feeling a little differently.

Yes, I may have possibly bit off more than I could chew, but I'm settling in. I was at school W-Th-F from 7:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. All three days after I got home, I worked on promotions, ideas, and letters to other parents. I also wrote my "speech" for the Executive Board Meeting for tonight (that I've been tweaking ever since) and another for the BIG PTO meeting next Tuesday outlining all I'm going to do. I also have to re-write the official "manual" that we use (because it is a freaking nightmare and I can't make heads or tails out of it). And quite honestly, I'm exhausted. Writing books is one thing, but being in the real world again is kind of scary. (The Ultimate Recluse -- yes that's me)

However, there is a bright spot. I'm starting to feel like a "whole" person again.

Since we moved down to NC six years ago, I haven't worked outside the home. Yes, I consider myself a full-time writer, and that is my official "job" but I don't have to leave my house. Sure I go out for groceries and shopping, but that's pretty much where my "social activities" end. I don't really "talk" to anyone. Yeah, sure, a conversation here and there with my neighbor about the snakes in his chicken coop, or chatting about the weather with the postmistress, but nothing of any real value. (Which truthfully is why I blog. I need the social interaction and why I miss you all so much when I'm off on hiatus.)

In taking this position at the school, I've found that I'm returning to my pre-Monster state -- where I was a viable part of a community. Where my ideas were met with enthusiasm, where I could state a case for something I believe in and find camaraderie, where I'm not just Monster's mother, but a bona-fide person in my own right. It's been thrilling.

In taking on this position, I find my creativity challenged in ways I haven't used for a very long time. Sure I bitch about how much work this all is, but honestly, it's fun. See, the girl I took over for (Tina) has done nothing but do the job for the last three years. She hasn't put any forward motion into it, hasn't wanted to. I can understand that -- she has 3 kids under the age of 8 and to say she's frazzled is an understatement.

I, on the other hand, have many ideas on how the Gift Card Coordinator position should be run and have implemented at least three of them since last Wednesday. All have been met with unbridled enthusiasm. (Which, quite frankly, is a little unsettling. If even the littlest things I do can have such a response, then either their bar has been set quite low, or I am particularly brilliant. I think I'd rather go with the former.)

I've also been "blessed" by everyone one who now knows I'm the new coordinator. As in, "God Bless You for taking on the task." "We're blessed to have you do this." "What a blessing it is to have you here." And hey, not that I'm overly fond of all that religion, but I won't turn down a blessing. You never know when you'll need it right?

I just wanted to tell you, I'm not feeling as crazed as I was last week.Yeah, sure, the job is still a little overwhelming, but I'm making strides, and so far, not faltering (unless you count the reconciling sheets I have to do. Ugh, it's all math.) But so far, I feel pretty good. I have every confidence that once I know my way around the books, I'll be able to get this job down to four hours two days a week. And then I can finish my next masterpiece. lol

I'm starting to feel like my "old self" again. I'm starting to feel like ME. Yay me!

And just one more thing.

I finished that "school project story" too and published it. (For those of you who don't know, I offered a prize for the school auction last April "Be A Character in a Story" and one of the teachers won it.) I decided to write it and then donate part of the proceeds back to the school. It's not my typical Regency romance, more about how two teachers find their way in 1809, but there is a little romance so as not to disappoint my regular readers.

This too, has been met with much enthusiasm and I'm actually going to do a real book signing for the paperback version on October 18 at the school's Fall Festival. So if you're anywhere near Winston-Salem around 4pm on October 18, stop by and say hello.

If any of you would like to read it for a review, I'll gladly send you a copy. (novella length word count 25K) I need all the reviews I can get. It's for charity and I'd like to see this do well.

So that's all the news that I have. Thanks for all your support last week. This is why I continue to blog. With all of you having my back, I am truly blessed. You can't find friends like this on Face Book or Twitter.

Tell me -- Have you ever taken on a job that you regretted, but then found it was the best thing you could have done for yourself?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Took a Job -- A Little Whine

Good morning. As the title of this post implies, I am now employed. However, there's no pay involved. You see, I took a job at my daughter's school as the new "gift card coordinator".

It's a volunteer position for the PTO, something I never ever wanted to join. (Because as you all know, joining the PTO is like going back to high school -- somewhere I never wanted to be in the first place.)

I've been thinking lately that I did need to find a "real" job. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself self-employed. Same as when I was a self-employed caterer. But back then I always had something in the pipeline for the slow winter months between Jan 1 and Easter before things started picking up again. I was thinking this time, I would find something part-time, maybe office temp to keep me afloat until I can get the next book out. I mean, I am a pretty good typist and know my way around a couple of computer programs.

Anyway, over the summer, the school posted their volunteer positions and I kept seeing the "gift card coordinator" job not being filled. My friend Tina (our daughters are in the same class) was leaving it because she was going to be the new PTO treasurer. I just naturally assumed one of the other women who helped her was going to do it. But no one filled in the little box.

So I did. My only real thought about the position was that it would look good on my resume if and when I ever did join the real world again.

HA! Hindsight is 20/20 as we all know, and last week I had my first two training sessions. It's a lot more involved than I ever thought. A lot (A LOT) more political than I ever dreamed or aspired to (I now am sitting on the Executive Board of the PTO with a vote mind you), and a way lot more hours than I ever planned on donating.

I was at school, both Wednesday and Friday for 7 hours. I didn't bring a lunch because I thought it would only take a few hours. It's a lot more complicated than just filling orders and checking off boxes. There's math involved. MATH my friends, and let me tell you now, math and I are hardly on speaking terms. My personal checkbook has never been balanced in the 30+ years I've had one. I mean, I do know how to add and subtract, multiply and divide, but balancing, yeah, not so much. I'm willing to let a few pennies slide into the ether. (My accountant despises me.)

And for the love of Mike, I had to learn the different terminology of what Tina calls the "brain". (The reconciling sheets that need to match perfectly with the numbers in the columns.) We have In-School Sales, Great Lakes sales, (where we get our gift cards), buy-out sales, (people who don't want to participate but we need to account for them as well), percentage totals, credit sales, (which the teachers are always getting credits to use), not to mention we have local vendors who participate who aren't in the "system" so they're on a whole different page.

Don't get me wrong, I can do this job. I was in charge of a $3 million dollar budget when I was chef at The Stone House Inn. I had to account for every purchase and sale back then. But it's been a long time.

And because I now hold a position on the PTO Executive Board, I've already been blindsided by the politics. (There's a fight raging over taking the microwaves out of the cafeteria for the kids to use. I'm already pressured to cast a vote to bring them back.)

Can I back out of this? No. I said I would do it. Do I want to? Hell yeah, I want to run for the hills. My perfect schedule of dropping Monster off at school and writing all day is gone. Granted the "job" only encompasses two days a week, but because I'm the "new" coordinator, I've already changed the order form and pick-up policy as well as the days we "work". There are a whole lot of things that need to be done that don't necessarily get done on school time. (Calls to other volunteer parents, scheduling the volunteers, writing the column for the weekly newsletter about "new" vendors that arise and "specials" the company provides.)

People are looking at me differently. Not only because I wear my "good" clothes for this "job" (I mean, I need to be "professional" and not just some shorts and t-shirt writer mom) but because people assumed because I was friends with some of these women in the first place, I got the job because of that. Which isn't true. And because I now hold a vote, they assume I'm going to side with those who are fighting the system. (If it warrants it, I'll cast a vote for what I think is in the best interests of the children. I mean that's why we're doing this to begin with, right. It's not about us, it's about them.)

I had just started a new manuscript as well. Richard's story which has been sitting on the back burner for oh, about 7 years. His book was a shambles, and in doing some research the last few weeks before school started I realized I had to throw most of what I'd written away and start from scratch. I've been really excited to get him going and now...this.


Obviously, I wasn't.

Tell me -- Have you ever made a choice to do something to help out and then realized you have just screwed yourself over?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reading vs Television

Good Morning. The last few months I've not been writing, I thought that would give me more time for reading. When I was living at the beach, long before Monster, even though I worked three or more jobs at the same time, I always had a book in my hand. I could probably get through  4 or 5 a week.

You would think because I stopped writing, I would have more time to read. You would think with real life finally under control I would have time to relax on the couch with a good book. And I'd recently bought a book by a favorite author that I've been dying to sink my teeth into.

Usually when I find myself with free time, there's always something else to do, you know what I mean... clean the clutter off the sideboard. Put the things that have been sitting on the stairs away. Straighten out Monster's bedroom -- again.

But one day I found that all that was done. I had even started the dishwasher. I actually had TRUE free time.

And I turned on the tv. And I sat and watched Castle reruns for two hours.

Why didn't I read the book? I asked myself that a million times since. Because you know I haven't found a spare moment since.

It was just too hard.

What? Since when is reading hard? I've been reading books since I was 4. It wasn't as if the book I wanted to read was a comparative dissertation on Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. It was a quick women's fiction, only 235 pages. And I liked her first book, so I was sure I'd like this one.

Then why did I sit on the couch and waste two hours watching Nathan Fillion? (Well, yeah, because hey, it's Nathan Fillion). But more importantly, it was mindless. I didn't have to pay attention. I'd seen it before.

In reading that book, I would have had to engage my brain. Fire the synapses to make connections with my inner self -- memory, vocabulary, imagination. First, I would have to THINK. Second, I would probably have inner edited. Putting that aside for the moment, third, I would have felt incredibly guilty that I wasn't writing. Inner deadlines, you know.

I miss reading. I really do. I miss letting myself go into another world, miss meeting new people (characters) who are different from me. I miss spending time in other places. Places I might never go. That I don't have to research.

Which I guess is the reason why I watch television. It's easy. You just have to sit and watch. You don't have to think. In the seconds you SEE something, your brain registers it. There's really no thinking involved.

When you read, you have to figure out what the author meant when she describes the wind whispering in between the window casing. Or the color between turquoise and teal. When you watch tv, it's right there in front of you. Your imagination is not engaged. There's nothing hard about watching television. Just plop your butt in the chair and turn it on.

Tell me -- Do you read more or less than you used to?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Writing Regurgitation

Good Morning. I believe I'm back to the blogosphere; Monster's in school, I have a schedule once again. I hope everyone had a great summer. As you can see, I decided to retrofit my blog. I kept my lighthouse on the side, but I needed a change. So here it is.

Anyway, two things happened in my little world recently -- I came up on my second anniversary of having my first book published -- and I critiqued a fantastic book. Singularly, those two things have nothing in common, but put together I found something that really made me go hmmmm.

While critting the manuscript, I noticed the author used the same few phrases over and over again. We all do. It's a crutch when our brain is firing and we're writing 90 mph.

Which in turn made me think about the phrases I use in my own books. One of my favorites that I constantly use is "made her way to" as in the character walked somewhere. "Mary made her way to the front of the class." Yes, it's okay. I'm sure other authors do it all the time. But once my critter told me about it I stopped doing it. Went into all my manuscripts (published or not) took them out, and put in better action verbs.

One of the other things I found in critiquing that particular manuscript was the overuse of certain words. And I'm not talking "just" or "really" or "was", I'm talking words like "perambulated" and "absconded" and "slighted". And no, this isn't an historical work where those words would sound okay. This was a contemporary so they stood out to me.

In my view, using words like this once is okay. It's great as far as I'm concerned. They're words you don't usually see every day or use in your own vocabulary. But reading them 4, 6, 8 times within the same tome, they get a little redundant, and we don't want to lose the reader. Right?

Now there's always a debate raging somewhere on using 25 cent words when we write. Some authors do it to show off. Others do it because they have high IQ's and that's the way they normally speak. I sometimes use 25 cent words because I've recently found them and I like them and I want other people to know about them. For instance "insouciance". It means "carefree indifference". Now I didn't know that. But I liked that word. And I know I'm going to use it in my next book.

When I was reading Regency romances all those many years ago (bodice rippers as it were), there was one author who constantly used the word "peregrination" (wander about on foot). Her characters would peregrinate all over the place. At least once in every other chapter. And in ALL her books. It drove me nuts.

And yes, I have used that particular word. But only in one book. Okay maybe two. BUT, only two. And I never used it twice in the SAME book.

I don't know why I feel this way about certain words. I know I never learned a particular "rule" about not using BIG words more than once in a manuscript. I think it's because as a reader, I've learned things that drive me crazy and so I don't want to drive my own readers crazy.

Tell me -- Do you use the same words or phrases in your writing? Is it a first-draft crutch and then you go back and fix them? Or do you not see them until someone points them out to you? How about BIG words? Do you use them again and again? Or do you use them sparingly?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Love the Smell of Diesel Fuel in the Morning

Yes, just a play on words from Robert Duvall's iconic character in Apocolypse Now. However, it's pertinent in my little world these days.

So naturally you remember the trees that were downed in my yard in June. How could you forget? Well, we worked on them for quite some time, but then the weather (which none of us in the contintental US could escape from) turned rather warm. So all labor ceased on the removal of the trees.

But then came the monsoons. Which flooded my basement. And my mother's. So, more work there to deal with. 26 straight days of rain. I kid you not.

And then, because I had nothing to do one morning, (big fat HA!) I decided to rip up the rug in my bathroom. Yes, I know, EWWWW, but I did not put the rug there, the previous owner did and I decided to take it out because, well, EWWWW.

But what I found when I ripped up the rug (which by the way was very nice and only a few years old) was that the bolts on the bottom of the toilet that were hinged on the floor, were loose. So much so, the toilet was barely hanging on to the drain. Needless to say, there was a puddle of water on the floor under the toilet, the rug was moldy, and damp, and just EWWWW.

So, I had to scrape the linoleum up to allow the floor to dry, which means that I need to put a new floor in my bathroom. (Which was my intention of ripping up the rug in the first place, but now I need to figure out how to make the floor level.)

Let this be a lesson to all of you. Make sure the bolts are tight under your toilet. (You know those little cap things under the bowl, well, lift those up, the bolts are under there.)

And then, after all that, the weather finally gave way and my father decided it was time to move the big stumps the boys couldn't break or saw, up to the last remaining pile on the street. He fired up the John Deere and I pushed, rolled, fulcrumed, heaved, and hefted (how's that for action words) those ##%^&*#$ stumps into the bucket and he took them up to the street. Needless to say, I breathed in a lot of diesel fumes and was very ill for the remainder of the day.

Fun times in North Carolina this summer. (I bet you all thought I was living a charmed life down here, didn't you? Sitting on the couch, eating bonbons, watching the soap opera channel.)

As for other news, writing news that is, I wrote a short story. I'm very happy with it (well, I will be after revisions) however, I'm not sure I'm going to publish it. I mean, I will, eventually, but it's not my usual short story. It deals with religion of all things, and the supernatural, and why I wrote it, I'll never know, but it got stuck in my craw and I had to write it. So there.

I've also been working on the Not So Secret Project Story for the winners of the auction at my daughter's school. It's coming along, after how many needless hours of research into the French persecution of the Catholics and the Nobility during the Reign of Terror (1789 - 1795 or so). I can't tell you how many hours I logged and then I barely used any of it.

BUT, big but here, no matter how much I say it was needless and useless, it was still worth it. What little I did use, added value to the story because it's true. And the facts were valid. I even went into the Lithuanian side of the whole thing (because there are two Lithuanian princesses in the story) so hopefully, this will all be worth it when it's done.

As I said, it's not my usual Regency romance, but there is a romance embedded within it, and I'm hoping it turns out the way they want it to. I'm not really sure what they expect because neither of the women read Regency romance, so who knows. I'm just writing what they dictated to me. Pirates, kittens, handkerchiefs up sleeves, and teaching.

Hey, I'm thinking that would be a great meme. Pirates, kittens, handkerchiefs up sleeves, and teaching. Anyone want to play?

I also had the astounding revelation of the opening to another story I'm going to start working on this fall. I mean, I had the idea for the story, but really nothing else. But then, just as I was going to sleep one night, the first four lines came to me, so I jumped out of bed and wrote them down. For once, I did the right thing instead of trying to remember it the next morning. So yay for me.

So, that's it for me. Work, work, and more work. But the trees are gone now, we can finally cut the grass, the basements are dry, the laundry is done, and I'm sitting in my little writer cave pounding away at the keyboard.

I'm not sure when I'll be coming back to this blog full time, or even IF I'll come back full time, but if you want to read other things I'm babbling about, I post every Thursday on my Robynne Rand blog and every Sunday on my Anne Gallagher Regency blog.

How about you? What have you been doing this summer? And if you're going to tell me you spent a month at the beach -- listen, you know I love you, but I really don't want to hear it. You'll just make me cry.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

So I'm Just Checking In

Well, hey howdy ho everyone. Hope you're all doing okay. I decided it was about time I stuck my nose back into the blogosphere just to say hey. It feels like forever, but it's only been a month. Or maybe two. I don't know. I've lost all track of time now that we're out of school.

I wish I could say I've been slaving away, burning up the keyboard but I'd be lying. I've written exactly 3,946 words on a short story. And that was only last weekend. I haven't written anything other than that except the outlines for a couple of stories for next year. And let me tell you how badly I want to write.

But, I have pictures of what has been taking up all my time so you can see for yourself that I haven't been entirely slacking.

The first week of June was pretty hectic as it was the last week of school. You know how that goes...award ceremonies, picnics, one last field trip. And then Monster and I slept in the following week. We were making plans for the pool, or vacation, just lazing about. I did a couple of interviews for that school story I'm supposed to be working on, and then on June 14 (Thursday) at approximately 4:45pm, a severe thunderstorm warning was put out across all the local tv stations. At 5:10pm our power went out. At 6:30 my mother called and said that I had to go down to her house to look at the damage. The storm was a quick mover and already gone. The sun was shining when I went down the street. This is what I saw.

These three fell across the middle driveway

This one killed my trailer and my dad's little John Deere

This one is actually two 
 Like a bomb exploded.
This one blocked the garage and the driveway

This is three trees and an unholy mess

This one came this close > < to hitting the house

This upended root structure is 12 feet across

My poor little trailer. This blocked the lower driveway.

You can't see the other machine in the background because there's an oak tree laying across it.

That's my father in the blue T-shirt.

My mother's clothesline is gone now. No more trees to hang it from.

This one blocked the upper driveway.

My favorite tree. On the top side, pachysandra encircles the entire base. We're still trying to saw away enough of the base to push it back upright.

We are all okay, nothing happened to the house, but it was pretty scary. I've only shown a couple of the pictures, but we lost 7 trees in all. Seven, very tall (80 feet), very large trees. (The oaks all had about a four foot base around, the pines were at least three. Huge huge trees.) Our next door neighbors have been helping me clean up. My parents told them if they wanted it for firewood, they could have it if they wanted to do the labor. So they said yes.

This is part of the pile that I cut myself. Well, most of it.

This is the other part
This is my pile.
This is only one of the debris piles
This is the front side. My neighbor cut me all the big logs. I did all the small ones.

You can see my parents house down the hill. And part of the debris we're still cleaning up.

This side of the pile I did all by myself. I guess my father's Christmas present to me of a chain saw came in handy.

This debris pile is 30 feet long by 4 feet high by 4 feet wide and hopefully the last one this size. The DPW has already hauled away 3 of these piles. When all was said and done, they loaded 4 monstrous dump trucks with debris. And I'm still cleaning up two weeks later.

These flowers are finally on the rebound. They were completely flattened to the ground. I love them so I was thankful nothing happened to them. I used to have them at the beach.

I had just one piece of siding come loose on the second story of my house, so I had to climb on the roof to fix it, but thankfully that was the only damage.

We couldn't watch the news, so I never actually found out if it was a baby tornado, a down draft, a micro burst, or what. But it was nasty and I don't want to ever have to do hard manual labor like that ever again. I want to be a sissy girly-girl and sit at my desk like a good little writer. lol The worst part about the whole thing is that as soon as the storm passed, it brought the nasty humid weather. So we've been working in 90 degree temps with 70% humidity. I take two, sometimes three showers a day.

I've decided what I really need is a vacation. But we'll see how that goes. I gave myself the month of July to write the school project story and hopefully I can get' er done. And maybe if I do, the gods will smile down on me and let me rent a beach house somewhere for the first two weeks of August. (Oh please, oh please.)

So, kids, that's about it. That's all I've been doing since June 14. I hope nothing like this happens to any of you. Or if it does, you have big strong men to do the clean up. Although, I have lost about 10 pounds, but it's a little extreme. I feel like I've been run through The Biggest Loser. ha!

I hope you all have a very safe, and fun 4th of July. I don't know when I'll be back around again. Maybe the first of August. I've really got to get that story written. You know how time flies and I have to have it ready to publish by Sept. 1. So wish me luck. Not so much on the story but that I get to go to the beach. lololololol

Talk to you soon. Happy Summer!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Just a Quick Post

Hey everyone. How's it going? I thought I'd swing by and give you an update on what I've been doing.

It's been a gnarly couple of months, that's for sure. I managed to get 90% of the yard finished before the weather became too awful. My brother surprised my mother on Mother's Day and came down for a week and he helped me with my fence. (Truthfully, I think he just wanted to play with my father's John Deere tractor.)

I also stripped two bedrooms worth of wallpaper, painted ceilings and walls, not to mention stripping dressers and assorted furniture and restaining them. Let's not discuss the yard sale stuff that I keep adding to (But if I keep adding I'll never have the yard sale so I've got to stop at some point.) Then there's the old house that's just a time sucking nightmare. But it's on the market now, so if you know someone who wants to move to Winston, I've got a cute little house for sale. 3 bedrooms, big rumpus room, nice 1/2 acre fenced in back yard. (I'll send you the specs and pics if you want. email me at piedmontwriter at gmail)

Anyway, in April, Monster's school had a fund raising auction and the secretary decided that I should put my books as one of the prizes. I didn't think that was worth much, so I said, "Well, how about if I use their name in my next book?" and that was a good idea. But after I thought about it, I decided that if they really wanted to spend some money, (It was a fund raiser after all) I'd just write a story about them. And that was how it went down in the auction. The prize I donated was that if you won, I would write a Regency novella about YOU (or a person of your choosing). It was supposed to be a love story. Because after all, I am a romance writer.

However, it didn't work out that way. One of the teachers won and then gave it to her assistant. There's been a whole lot of back and forth with this story line, but I think I've worked it out and what I've come up with will be a fun little exercise in past lives and history lessons. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. We'll see how it ends up. (If you want to know more, there's a tab under my header called A Not So Secret Project on my Anne Gallagher blog.)

Also, in case you didn't know, or I didn't tell you (which I know I didn't) THE LADY'S MASQUERADE is
out across all venues in e-version. I've also been working on the paperback copy, and after one more run-through it should be ready to go sometime this week. What you may also want to know about this book is that I'll be holding a give-away on Goodreads for it during the month of June. Well, that's the plan anyway. So check over there if you'd like a copy. I'm giving away 3.

I'm also going through all my other books to get them ready for paperback. Yes, they were already out once, but after making so many changes I needed to revise them. I also revised all my e-versions so they're totally up-to-date. That's the nice thing about self-publishing. I can always change what I don't like.

I've also been outlining my next books like a crazy person. I've never outlined before, well, precisely outlined like a synopsis, so it's been fun. I have no idea if I'm going to use them, but it's been a fun exercise. I've also developed a few more little short stories for my Robynne Rand personna, but haven't sat down to write anything yet. I don't really have the time just yet. Although, not having written for 5 months, the itch is definitely starting to grow.

So that's it. That's where I am and what I've been doing. Not really all that exciting, but that's fine for me.

Tell me -- What have you been up to?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Top of the Ninth -- Two Outs

Real life has thrown me an incredible curve ball over the weekend (some good news some bad news) and I have to swing the bat. Ninety miles an hour isn't the way I usually play, but I remember how to do it. I might not like playing so fast anymore, and I might be a little rusty, but when it comes to taking an at bat, I'm all in. I can still swing for the fences. We'll see how it all shakes out.

So, I'm off this blog again. I may or may not occasionally post once a month here at the Piedmont Writer. Who knows. However, I have pre-written posts for

Anne Gallagher Regency Romance Writer . I post on Sunday for readers and Wednesday for writers


Robynne Rand Author -- The Other Side of Providence  This is my contemporary romance/women's fiction author blog.  So Yvonne, if you want to discuss "Kate" over a drink, that's where I'll be.  I'm usually there on Thursdays.

I hope you all have a great summer. I'll see you when I do.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Nicki Elson

We're just going to dive right in today. Lots to talk about.

1) When I read Three Daves (which I loved BTW), I saw that each chapter had part of a scripture attached
to it. I thought it was interesting, but didn't quite "get it." I found though, that this is considered "inspirational". Would you consider yourself an "inspirational" writer? (Because I don't. I mean, not that you're not inspirational, it's just that to me, you're a writer of women's fiction/romance, inspiration notwithstanding.)

I’m very happy you loved it. The story behind the Psalms at the end of the chapters is that while I was writing Three Daves, I came across a Psalm that made me think of a particular scene. After that, I thought it would be fun to identify a verse that related to each chapter, so I did. In some cases the connection between the scripture and the chapter are quite strong, in others, I’ll admit, I was stretching. But one of the coolest things about the Bible is that you can read it again and again and get something different out of it every time, depending what you’re going through in this life at that moment. I began the search as a private exercise, but since I got something out of examining the scripture from the story’s angle, I thought others might too, so I left the Psalms in when I submitted for publication—but I purposely set them off from the rest of the text so that readers who chose to could simply skip past them.

Other readers have expressed mild confusion about the inclusion of the verses, but enough people have told me that they really enjoyed reading and pondering each one that I’m glad I was able to keep them in. I was half-prepared for the publisher to tell me they had to go, which would’ve made me sad, but I also would’ve been okay with it because they’re not story-essential and I understand the eyebrows they raise. But not one editor along the way ever suggested that they go, so I guess they were meant to be there.

Okay, to finally answer your question—no, I don’t consider myself an “inspirational” writer. It’s only natural that my Christian worldview will affect what I write, but like you said, I write women’s fiction/romance, period.

2) Your new book DIVINE TEMPTATION has been described as "edgy inspirational". Okay so what does THAT mean?

Hehe, um, I think it means that there are a group of authors who don’t quite fit the strict Christian Fiction genre, but they’re close, and so they’ve made up a whole new category. I was led to it when my publicist  asked me to search out Christian Fiction review sites. I knew that category wasn’t right for my book, so I was very happy when my searching led me to this Edgy Inspirational sub-genre, which allows the characters more leeway in the sinning department.

In my opinion, Divine Temptation fits in the Edgy Inspirational category, though some might say it teeters on the edge of edgy. Faith is present via Maggie’s relationship with the angel and her job at the church, but the focus of the story is on her struggle with things like life after divorce, resentfulness, an inability to trust, and not least, lust—sometimes she loses those battles, and sometimes the loss leads to dark consequences.

3) I'm dying to know how you came up with this idea of an angel in Maggie's bed. Sure, we've all dreamed of coming home and finding the perfect man, but this seems a bit...wild. Where did you find this idea? (Because I so love it.)

Yeah, I’ve raised a few eyebrows with this one too. Well, the first spark of inspiration was to have a supernatural white-knightish type inserted into the life of a mature, experienced woman (i.e. not a swoony teenager), and since my natural bent is toward writing reality, I chose a being that I believe truly exists, and so we arrive at an angel. Plus, casting him as a heavenly angel most definitely kicked up the “forbidden love” factor. It’s the opposite of all the bad boy, alpha male stories, but to me, a good boy can be every bit as enticing, in many ways more so because he appeals to more than just the libido.

Great stuff this. Gives me a few ideas of my own...

4) And trying not to give any spoilers, (but I've read some reviews) there is somewhat of a clash between good and evil...was that a natural extension because you're writing about an angel? Or did it just hit you one day?

It was a natural extension. Nothing about this story really just came along and hit me. It lived in my head for years, mutating, with new twists growing and winding their way through the storyline. Now that I’m thinking back to the very beginnings, what ended up being Divine Temptation is actually the coming together of two different ideas—one being the angelic white knight idea described above, and the other being the notion that evil is alive and thriving on this Earth, even under the immaculate surface of manicured suburbia. The seeds of this second idea came while doing a study on Death by Suburb by Dave L.Goetz

5) And because we all know you're an 80's girl, who was your musical inspiration while writing this novel?

You know me well. While writing Divine Temptation, a few songs came along and smacked me in the face as perfect for the dream soundtrack, like “Perfect” performed by Smashing Pumpkins (Maggie & her ex-husband Carl’s theme) and “Something Beautiful” performed by Needtobreathe (Magge & Evan’s theme and also her & God's). Now that you’re talkin’ 80s, however, how can I not offer up “Just Like Heaven” performed by The Cure as the lead track? It's got a nice blend of happy, longing, and dark, which I think fits the story well.

Thanks for having me over, Anne!  I greatly enjoy our discussions.

Thanks for being here Nicki! Great time as usual.

You can find Nicki at her website below, and her books are linked.


Three Daves:

Divine Temptation:

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013